Scouting Grayslake North: It's a healthy forecast for Knights
Sam Baker's first season at Grayslake North ended with his football team advancing to the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs.
The head coach's first off-season went well too.
While college coaches were making regular visits to watch quarterback Austin Martineau throw, running back Jordan Curtis was progressing well from ACL surgery. Curtis injured his knee in Week 8, ending what had been a breakout season for him.
Both Curtis (First Team) and Martineau (Second Team) were All-Northern Lake County Conference selections as juniors.
Curtis, who rushed for 548 yards and 4 touchdowns last year, was cleared for contact just recently.
"He's doing awesome," Baker said. "He was squatting 225 (pounds) just warming up 3-4 months after tearing (the ACL)."
A healthy Curtis paired with Martineau figures to give the Knights an explosive offense again.
"He's looking good," Martineau said of Curtis. "Jordan will run through tackles. It's hard to bring him down. He definitely makes it easier on me, and when the offensive line gives him a good hole, he'll go through and get at least 5-10 yards every time."
If the offensive line can pass-block well again, Martineau could put up numbers similar to last season, when he threw for 1,612 yards and 21 touchdowns, while completing 53 percent of his passes in his second season as the starting QB. The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder has scholarship offers from Valparaiso and Butler and has attracted Ivy League interest as well, Baker noted.
"It's nice when you have a three-year starting quarterback who's got the mental and physical talents that he does, " Baker said. "It's a luxury that I've never had before."
Martineau, who carries a 4.4 GPA (4.0 scale), did not play volleyball last spring in order to focus on football. He started for the varsity volleyball team as a freshman and sophomore.
"This is my first offseason ever that I actually got a chance to go in the weight room and lift with my team," Martineau said. "I definitely increased some lifts. I gained 10 pounds. It's my first offseason consistently throwing, too. It's been a nice, smooth transition into the season."
While Bubba Hochstein graduated after a 52-catch, 8-TD season, the Knights welcome back senior wide receiver Nick Lovitsch, who had 20 receptions (17.8 average) and 4 TDs before suffering a season-ending broken wrist late in the season. Junior Joe Swanson (12 receptions) took over when Lovitsch went down.
Also back is senior tight end Zach Carter, who stood out again particularly at linebacker, as he notched 107 tackles in earning All-NLCC First Team recognition for the second year in a row.
Carter (6-3, 190) also plays basketball and lacrosse but has decided he will not play college athletics. He's had 2 surgeries on his right knee.
"I just want to focus on my studies (in college)," said Carter, who has a 3.6 GPA and talked to Marquette about playing lacrosse.
"Hopefully we'll get to state," he added. "That's the goal. It's always the goal."
Brian Johnson served as Baker's offensive coordinator last year but is coaching at Richmond-Burton (along with former Knights head coach Steve Wood), so Baker will run the offense. Andy Strahan serves as defensive coordinator again.
The Knights' other veterans include senior defensive lineman Wake Caldero (All-NLCC Second Team), senior lineman Danny Amadio, senior outside linebacker/tight end Adam George, junior wide receiver/defensive back Jeremy Rowder, senior defensive end Carter Price, junior lineman Josh West and senior linebacker/offensive lineman Jakov Perez.
Martineau, Carter, Curtis and Caldero serve as captains for a team that has reached the postseason six straight years.
"On paper, we should be decent," Baker said. "But we got to put it all together. I talk to the kids and tell them, 'We're talented, but my No. 1 fear that keeps me up at night as a head coach is underachieving.' We talk about that all the time."